The Charge of the Light Brigade is an 1854 narrative poem at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War.

Does it glorify war or criticize it?

  • Describing their actions as noble inevitably glorifies unconditional obedience to authority, which is part and parcel of war. Huge sentimentality about war sacrifice prevails to this day in regards to Gallipoli by New Zealanders [ANZAC Day was yesterday]. This is deliberately fostered, it's been suggested, to substitute honour for dead, in place of shame and anger which could prevail in regards to poor judgement of military officers from greater powers in the interests of expansionism far from home. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 6:02

7 Answers 7


The Charge of the Light Brigade glorifies the warriors, not the war.

Throughout the poem, we see exaltation of the soldiers for their bravery. They are described as brave, bold, and having "fought so well".

However, the second stanza reveals that the poem's writer considered the charge a farce:

Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,

The poem describes the act as charging "Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell " and describes the reaction to the charge as all the world wondering. This shows a disdain for the commands leading to the charge.


It does both.

It glorifies the six hundred while criticizing the leaders of the charge.

Here's some quotes highlighting it:

'All in the valley of Death' - Shows the mistake sending soldiers to their deaths
'Someone had blundered.' - Shows the mistake
'Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell' - shows how they were blindly sent to their deaths

And glorification:

'Boldly they rode and well,' - praises them
'While horse and hero fell.' - calls the heroes
'Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!' - calls for honour and praise


I think this is too black-and-white. The poem is not about war, but about an event.

The poem praises the courage of the soldiers, who obey even if it means certain death. It is like a requiem for these brave men.

It also criticizes the failure of the officers.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Above all, however, it praises the suicidal courage: the opening line of the last couplet is clear about that.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!


The poem appears to glorify war with its talk of bravery and talk of honouring the light brigade.

However, the second to last stanza appears to contradict this:

While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

The poem both honors their bravery, but notes that their bravery got them killed. To quote this article, "Tennyson's soldiers are bold, heroic, glorious, honourable, noble and dead."


When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wondered.

Honour the charge they made,

Honour the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred.

The last stanza, I think, makes it clear.

While horse and hero fell.

They that had fought so well

Came through the jaws of Death,

It is also there when they are described as having sabres. This is a pretty honorable thing, to charge cannons with sabres, and they are a weapon of noblemen.

I think he is glorifying soldiers but not war, as in the end, they do die because of this horrible thing.


According to the Guardian's poetry critic, Carol Rumens, it's neither:

I don't think it sets out to glorify war, but it's certainly not a protest. It recreates the sabre-flashing excitement of warfare, even in the ironical context of bare sabres against guns.


Tennyson was the poet laureate. His job was to describe the events of the day in poetry. The poem is neither glorifying war nor decrying it - he was merely describing a specific battle where as a result of terrible decisions by the powers in command, an entire regiment of horsemen was sent to attack a Russian line of cannon. The poem simply, perfectly describes the horrors of bad decisions on the battle field.

  • 2
    Hi and welcome to Literature SE. On this site, we like answers that are supported by evidence, either from the text itself (as in the other answers) or perhaps from the author's life or autobiographical writings (which might provide clues to the author's intentions). The only literary evidence in your answer is about Tennyson being poet laureate. Even this information might be expanded, e.g. by adding whether the poem was commissioned or not.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 11:44

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